What is a Westphalian Horse?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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The Westphalian or Westfalen horse is a breed of German warmblood with a long and illustrious history. Next to the Hanoverian horse, the Westphalian is probably one of the most well known warmblood breeds, and the size of its studbook is second only to that of the Hanoverians, featuring an incredibly diverse array of mares and stallions which meet its exacting standards. These horses are well suited to equestrian sports, especially dressage and jumping, and a number of horses in Olympic competition are Westphalians.

The roots of this breed lie in the 1700s, when the German nobility established several breeding programs to improve German horse stocks, creating several state-owned studs which were maintained for the benefit of German citizens. In the 1800s, the form of the modern Westphalian began to emerge in the stud at Warendorf, in western Germany. These horses were originally bred as working animals, testing under saddle and in agricultural pursuits.

By 1888, a Westphalian studbook had been established. Horses which meet the breed standard are branded at foals with the Westphalian crest. As a general rule, to be considered for entry into the studbook, horses must be healthy, with no signs of genetic or physical defects, and they typically have long necks, high muscular withers, sloping shoulders, and intelligent heads. A wide assortment of colors are acceptable, with many Westphalians being brown, black, gray, chestnut, or bay.


The Westphalian is well known for having naturally elastic, springing gaits. Like other German warmbloods, these horses are very well tempered, taking well to training and performing dependably under saddle. The breed has evolved from a working animal into a sport horse, with a finer bone than its predecessors, and these horses are bred to be naturally friendly and athletic. Sadly, many breeding records for these horses were destroyed in the political tumly in germany during the early 20th century.

As a sport horse, the Westphalian can be used in competitions like three day eventing, show jumping, and dressage. Some people also like to ride them in the hunt field, taking advantage of their intelligence, athleticism, and good nature. A well trained Westphalian is suitable for riders at a wide range of skill levels, although the horses will of course perform better with experienced riders. For young riders who are considering pursuit of equestrian sports as a career, a Westphalian can be a valuable and dependable companion.


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